Why the Foxbat is so good

Irish flyer 01Here’s a short 2 minute video from Irish Flyer on YouTube, demonstrating a landing on a challenging little grass strip among the trees. There’s an ‘interesting’ S-turn needed during final approach, which could get out of hand if not treated properly!

This looks like a real ‘one way in’ landing area, with very little room for error – speed control is vital to ensure you get it right.

As usual click on the photo to view the video or click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOvA_W6pLhM

Lockdown handover

23-1685 Front LHWay back in late January 2020, Simon and Jane, who live near Cairns in north Queensland, ordered a new red Foxbat. Remember those days? We were dealing with summer temperatures, bushfires and had no inkling of what was to come.

The Aeroprakt factory made and shipped the aircraft and it arrived more-or-less on schedule at Melbourne docks in early June. With many thanks to the factory for keeping to their deadlines and the shipping companies for (almost) meeting theirs.

Australia Map

Australia Map

In late June all was looking good…
At that time, virus-wise, things were looking OK for Simon and Jane to pick up their aircraft from Melbourne and fly it the 1300 nautical miles (about 2500 kilometres) back home. The ‘first wave’ of COVID-19 seemed to be well under control right across Australia and we were all looking forward to a loosening of lock-down  restrictions. We got on with re-assembling the aircraft at Moorabbin, south of Melbourne, getting it signed off and all the many admin things you need to do to get a new aircraft registered and test-flown.

Then fate took a heavy hand and, due to rising cases of ‘community transmission’ COVID-19 cases in Victoria (where Melbourne is located), Queensland and New South Wales (which lies between Victoria and Queensland) closed their borders in early July to stop people travelling from Victoria. It looked like Simon and Jane would have to wait at least 6 weeks before they could fly their nice new shiny red aeroplane. However, as they say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

Willing a way
After some research, Simon and I agreed it might be possible for me to apply for a New South Wales border permit, to allow me to fly their aircraft just across the border from Victoria to a place called Albury –  a thriving country New South Wales town, with a sizeable airport. Which crucially had scheduled airline flights available back to Melbourne. Simon and Jane would fly scheduled flights to Albury, via Sydney, to meet me and take over their aeroplane at Albury.

So I checked with Victorian authorities – OK to travel for work which could not be done at home…delivering an aeroplane is not a desk job! I do not live in or near a Victorian ‘virus hot spot’ and I applied online for the New South Wales border exemption permit, which was granted immediately. Availability of a return flight was checked and booked, as was a motel in Albury for an overnight stay, as Simon and Jane could not arrive until after dark, meaning an early morning handover the next day. Finally, I called Albury Airport management to check what, if anything, I needed to do after landing – with regard to the permit, health checks and so on. They were very helpful and advised me to call them after arrival and they would direct me accordingly. So we were all set to go.

IMG_8472Off I go
The day of the flight from Moorabbin to Albury dawned clear and sunny, with even a light southerly tail wind to guide me on my way! But, as usual with a southerly at this time of year, the Kilmore Gap through the hills to the north was clouded in and I had to delay departure by a few hours to wait for the cloud base to lift. So eventually I set off for Yarrawonga, a rest and refuel stop on the way to Albury, to pick up a Foxbat cabin cover from Diane at Punkinhead Airsports and a Mr Funnel filter from Peter McLean at P&M Aviation, both ordered by Simon.

I landed at Albury around 4.00pm in the afternoon. The airport manager took all my details over the phone and cleared me to exit the airport and go to my motel. So far so good!

IMG_8489

Lockdown handover
The next morning, I met Simon and Jane – who stayed at the same motel (I think we may have been the only guests) – and we went to the airport in their hire car. Out of respect for them, I wore a mask in the car and later in the plane with Simon, while we did circuits – I’m pretty sure I am not infected but the last thing I wanted to do was to start a new ‘cluster’! The Foxbat was duly inspected and all the items on the handover checklist ticked off and then Simon and I went for a few circuits so he could familiarise himself with his version of the Foxbat – he’s flown several others as part of his prep for the trip.

Finally it was time for me to wish them bon voyage back to Cairns – probably a leisurely 2-3 day trip – and I proceeded to the passenger terminal to check in for my flight back to Melbourne.

Pandemic shocks
Now here’s where the pandemic really started to come home to me. I suppose, living on Melbourne’s beautiful Bayside has, to some extent, insulated me from the economic and social pandemonium going on. I have been able to continue to shop for groceries and other essentials, ride my bike for exercise along the Beach Road, continue to receive and send spare parts to Foxbat & Vixxen owners, and visit my GP if needed.

IMG_8495My return flight was with Rex, fully known as ‘Regional Express‘ airline. First shock – the Albury passenger terminal was completely empty. I went to the Rex check-in desk really expecting to be told the flight was cancelled. Then, second shock – it was running OK and I was the only passenger on the SAAB twin turbo-prop aircraft. It was very strange when the pilot, announcing our descent into IMG_8506Melbourne, addressed me by name! A nice touch – now I know what it feels like (well, almost) to have your own private airliner!

Arriving in Melbourne Airport was eerie. The Rex turbo-prop parked way out on the apron and I disembarked and boarded – still alone – a shuttle bus back to the terminal, passing row upon row of mothballed JetStar Airbus airliners, engines cocooned and landing gear covered in plastic protection. Very weird.

IMG_8509My partner Louise met me in the car park and we started our journey home in the car. I was stunned as we exited the multi-storey park to see a vista of completely empty long-term car parks, as far as the eye could see. The mothballed aircraft were shocking enough but somehow the hectares and hectares of empty long-term car parks really hit home. And this is just Melbourne airport – this picture is repeated many times over around the world.

This pandemic is something completely outside our experience, knowledge and understanding. The economic cost is astonishing. And for those whose loved ones have died or suffered long-term consequences from the disease, we can hardly imagine their devastation. Let’s hope for an effective vaccine and/or treatment soon, so we can begin to recover our health and sanity.

New Aeroprakt factory website

Aeroprakt has launched its new, modern website incorporating many easy-to-navigate and visually stunning features. It’s a great development from their old website which seems to have been around a long time!

In addition to all the information on the A-32 and A-22 aircraft, and essentials like Service Bulletins, there are many new photos and videos to see. There’s also an interactive map to help you find the country dealer nearest to you.

Some pages – such as ‘History’ are yet to be completed but don’t let that stop you exploring this exciting new site!

You can click here to link directly to the new site in English (you also have Ukrainian and Russian language options): http://aeroprakt.kiev.ua/en/

Ido Segev

It is with a degree of sadness I cannot possibly describe, that I mourn the passing of Ido Segev in an aviation accident last Wednesday, 19th February. Ido worked with me at Foxbat Australia for over 3 years and, for the last 18 months or so, we were joint directors of AeroEdge Australia.

Ido had such an energy and enthusiasm for everything that flies – from drones, to RC aircraft, where he won numerous prizes, to full size aeroplanes. He seemed to have a natural flair for aircraft control, whatever the size of the aircraft. As one of his RC model friends said: ‘He had golden hands’.

One of his aviation passions was aerobatics. He had a part share ownership in a little Pitts – he was tall and barely seemed able to fold himself into the cockpit – but as his short videos show, he could really fly that thing. Forgive me, but going upside down in an aeroplane never was my thing… but Ido described it as ‘better than a psychologist!’

Ido’s passion for flying – and indeed life – was highly infectious. He brought new ideas and excitement to both Foxbat and AeroEdge. In all the time he worked with me I never heard anything but praise about his attitude, approach and attention to details. His sole aim was to make the whole buying and owning process memorable and enjoyable for customers.

He leaves behind a grieving family, both in Australia and in Israel; I wish them my deepest condolences. He also leaves behind his long term partner, Bree Sutcliffe; I cannot imagine what she is going through but I hope the knowledge that Ido was loved and respected by  all who met him gives her some support during this awful time.

He became almost a son to me and I’ll miss him very much.

Sherwood Scout

Sherwood Scout

A couple of years ago I visited the UK Light Aircraft Company (TLAC) factory in Norfolk to look at the single-seat tail-dragger Sherwood KUB aircraft. At the time I noted the high degree of engineering professionalism at the factory and very nearly decided to become the Australian dealer for the KUB. However, when we worked out prices, the A$ vs UK£ exchange rate put an end to my plans. I believed that the retail price for the KUB – great little aeroplane though it is – would not attract many buyers.

Sherwood KUB

While I was at the factory, I also looked at the Sherwood Scout, a 2-seat high wing Rotax 912ULS powered tail dragger. This aircraft, if you go back far enough, has its history in the Kitfox, although now seriously re-engineered to be stronger and fly (much) better than the older design. Apart from the excellent standard of engineering in the manufacture of this aircraft, it is almost unique both in being covered with UV-proof Oratex and having a (very) easy folding wing, allowing it to be stored in about 25% of the space needed for a fixed wing aircraft.

The aircraft is not the proverbial ‘tube & sailcloth’ aircraft but has a welded 4130 tube fuselage with aluminium spars and wooden ribs.  With the Rotax 912ULS/100hp engine, its performance figures are very attractive too. As well as the easy folding wing, add side-by-side seating, a good weight carrying capability, a genuine 95 knots TAS and you have the makings of an excellent bush plane – some might say it would eat Big Cats for breakfast! You can even swap between nose dragging and tail dragging in a better of minutes…

I am an avid subscriber to ByDanJohnson’s Blog – his is one of the top websites covering Light Sport and Recreational aircraft worldwide. And just the other day, one of his contributors, the well-known Dave Unwin,  published a flight review of the Scout. Once again, my interest was piqued…

Apart from commenting on the ‘very honest’ flying characteristics – ie very good! – the reviewer also reminded me of the easy folding wing option, making the aircraft much easier to store. Here’s his summary:

“I honestly feel that TLAC has got a winner here! Obviously care needs to be taken with the weight and balance of the lightest version, but with a typical useful load in excess of 517 pounds [235 kgs] the larger Scout [vs KUB] is a very practical machine, with good numbers for speed, range and endurance, and the ability to carry a good load into and out of rather short strips. The folding wings are a big plus, while the ability to reconfigure from a nosewheel to a tailwheel quickly and easily could also be very useful. I liked it, a lot.

You can read the full article here: Review of the Sherwood Scout

What do you think?

Reflections on flying…

Image

Aeroprakt A22LS Foxbat

I have loved aeroplanes and flying as far back as I can remember and was lucky enough at the age of 17 to be taught to fly in the UK by the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm under their cadet flying scholarship scheme.

Many years later, after a serious dalliance with hot air ballooning, I revitalised my fixed-wing license and came to live in Australia, where my life in the air has been transformed in many wonderful ways I could never have dreamed. Flying became my business and viewing Australia from the air became my pleasure.

The main vehicle for this transformation has been the Aeroprakt A22 – known fondly in Australia and several other countries as the Foxbat.

The Foxbat is one of a relatively new breed of simple yet hi-tech aircraft designed and manufactured using modern technology and materials. It fits the ‘Light Sport Aircraft’ (LSA) category developed in the USA nearly 15 years ago and enthusiastically adopted in Australia in 2006. In many ways, LSAs – including the Foxbat – represent the cutting edge of current light aviation and are well-suited to flying in Australia.

They often carry more weight, usually fly faster, stall slower and use far less fuel than most of their old General Aviation 2-seat counterparts. And into the bargain, they are more manoeuvrable, more fun to fly and are much much less expensive to maintain. Learning to fly in an LSA is a delight – and costs much less than you may think.

Glasair Sportsman

My logbook now shows that, apart from the Foxbat (and its various versions) I have flown almost 30 different aircraft types (excluding various sizes of hot air balloon). Probably my all-time favourite was a Glasair Sportsman, which I bought, as a ‘two weeks to taxi’ used aircraft, from the USA. Apart from its ‘desert’ camouflage paint scheme complete with ‘wild pig’ teeth at the front  (which you either loved or loathed – she who must be obeyed loathed it!) it was a real delight to fly. Fitted with oversize tyres, it would get you in and out of small strips, carry full fuel plus two good sized people and about 70kgs of luggage. And it cruised around 140 knots into the bargain. I had to sell it to give a bit of cash injection into my business but it was a sorry day when I flew it to its new owner.

Seabird Seeker

Perhaps the most disappointing was the Seabird Seeker. Since first seeing photos of one when I lived in the UK, I’d always wanted one but a new one was way way out of my budget. Until a used version – in fact the original factory demonstrator – came up for sale at less than the price of a new Foxbat. The Seeker looks a bit like a fixed wing helicopter, with a ‘bubble’ cabin in front and a pusher configuration propeller and engine up behind your head. The aircraft was designed and built, by the renowned Adams family in Queensland, as a surveillance aircraft. And this is where I should have listened to a few warning signals….the plane was amazingly stable in all modes of flight; whatever you did with the controls, it always wanted to return to straight and level – perfect for a surveillance role but not really much fun for the pilot! The mogas approved 160hp Lycoming engine was a bit under powered for a biggish plane in hot and high density altitude flying in Australia. And it was incredibly noisy. And very complex to maintain – I suppose it was primarily designed for civil/military use rather than private flying. But I held on to it for a couple of years before a buyer in the USA made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Interstate Cadet

I’ve also owned an Interstate Cadet, still the only one in Australia. A beautiful old thing, built in 1942, well refurbished in the mid-2000s as a bush plane, with a surprisingly nimble turn of speed and take-off. Apart from needing a degree in contortionism to get in and out of the front (pilot) seat, it was very comfortable and forgiving to fly. Over the years, the type has been made famous by Kent ‘Jelly Belly’ Pietsch who flies a couple of great routines – one with engine off aerobatics, including a dead stick landing, as well as a comedy routine where pieces of the aircraft ‘fall off’ – notably an aileron. In a testament to the airframe, the aircraft remains aerobatic even after the aileron is detached. Kent also lands his Interstate on top of a mobile home, albeit with a flat ‘runway’ top, which is quite something to see.

Vans RV7A

Then at completely at the opposite end of the scale there was a Vans RV7…I have always been very wary of buying, without a personal inspection, an amateur built aircraft but an engineer friend checked it out and pronounced it straight and well-built. Again, it was one of my dream planes and great to fly, particularly if you wanted to get somewhere fast! Up at 8,500 feet it would true out at around 170 knots. The downside to all this haste was a bit of a jittery ride in turbulence, which got a bit tiresome after a couple of hours in the saddle. In contrast, the Interstate just loped along at 80 or 90 knots with much of the turbulence absorbed by those big fabric covered wooden-sparred wings.

Other aircraft on the list include Piper Colts (in which I initially learned to fly), Piper Cherokee 140s, a Chipmunk, a couple of Super Cubs, many different Evektor SportStars, a Tecnam or two, a Cessna 152, a Thorp T211, a Slingsby T67, a Beagle Terrier (for flying training when spinning was on the syllabus and the Colt just couldn’t cut it), a Beagle Pup (which, although severely underpowered, was a delight to fly once you got off the ground…which took quite a while), a Dimona motor glider, and a Cubcrafters Carbon Cub. Also on the list is a Grumman AA-5 Cheetah which the instructor (only half-jokingly) told me that I wasn’t allowed to put the notoriously fragile castering nose wheel on the ground until the aircraft was parked.

Just lately, I have been doing quite a bit of flying in a new, Czech built LSA called a DirectFly Alto…but that’s another story.

I am very happy to have made Tyabb Airport my flying home and that of the Aeroprakt A22 Foxbat in Australia – come and visit us in Hangar 11 just south of the main Peninsula Aero Club House.

In our thoughts…

In our thoughts: here, in the relative cool of our base near Melbourne, it’s almost impossible to imagine the sheer scale and devastation of the bushfires our fellow human beings are experiencing only a couple of hundred kilometres to the east and beyond. Not to mention the many thousands, perhaps millions of animals that have perished.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone affected and hope that there will soon be an end to these fires. As we are in the aviation business ourselves, our thoughts also naturally turn to the pilots and crews of the water and retardant dropping aircraft who are flying in the most horrendous of conditions – over and over again. Thank you to them for their courage and persistence.
If you don’t already know, you can make financial donations to a number of organisations which are directly involved in supporting the people who need help – from families who have lost loved ones, to those who have lost their homes and businesses, to the firefighters and their support teams, and to those providing support facilities for burned and injured animals.
Here’s a list of organisations through whom you can make a donation:
– Australian Red Cross: http://bit.ly/39JKGAT
– Salvation Army: http://bit.ly/35ieH7i
– Community Enterprise Foundation: http://bit.ly/2SWzMl5
– Victoria Country Fire Authority: http://bit.ly/2QZ7wMj
– New South Wales Country Fire Authority: http://bit.ly/2FnclcC
– World Wildlife Fund: http://bit.ly/2ZSbla7
– Gippsland (SE Victoria) Emergency Relief Fund: http://bit.ly/2QpAaHi
If you haven’t already, please make a donation – every amount counts.